Look, I fucking hate the two-party system.
I think we should be have serious debate between at least four viewpoints in politics, and more likely something like six, if we were to have anything close to real representation of the range of serious opinions held by our citizenry. There are a whole host of flaws in being limited to two parties, not the least of which is that tends toward making people think there are only two very specific beliefs one can have on issues or solutions one might find to problems.
Multiple parties could cooperate on issues that a majority of Americans agree on, perhaps even come up with new solutions that aren't even on the table in a binary system, while agreeing to disagree on some others. Consider, for instance, how Green Party politicians could work with Libertarians on corporate welfare.
It seems like the true enemy of these third parties, though, is the parties themselves.
As Dan Savage stated, as quoted in Dan Savage on Jill Stein: Just No, "I have a problem with the Greens, I have a problem with the Libertarians. I have a problem with these fake, attention seeking, grandstanding Green/Libertarian party candidates who pop up every four years, like mushrooms in shit, saying that they're building a third party. And those of us who don't have a home in the Republican Party, don't have a home in the Democratic Party, can't get behind every Democratic position or Republican position, should gravitate toward these third parties. And help build a third party movement by every four fucking years voting for one of these assholes like Jill fucking Stein, who I'm sure is a lovely person, she's only an asshole in this aspect.
"If you're interested in building a third party, a viable third party, you don’t start with president. You don't start by running someone for fucking president."
These are people who are using a ton of the resources they have available, in terms of money raised by well-meaning and sincere citizens, as well as the time and effort spent, and are continually not getting anything done.
I've heard of Jill Stein. I've heard of Gary Johnson. Neither of them will be the next president. The only reason either of them even stands to have an affect on the outcome of this election is because of the unprecedented disapproval ratings of both major party candidates this year. Even that won't have any affect on the real potential power of either party going forward.
I don't know who is running in any other race that affects me. In my many years as a voting adult, I have never been confronted by an ad, an interview, a sign or a handshake from a local candidate from a party other than the two one expects. Get people in office all through our government, from local to state and in both houses of congress would have an enormous effect on our real lives.
This is from someone with a strong interest in alternative parties. I would notice and care if I saw these things.
You can say it's my responsibility to ensure I know these things, and I try to pay attention and be aware of them, but most people won't. If these parties are trying to be serious messengers of ideas outside of the two we always get, they are responsible to get them out there.
Right now, presidential candidates are a genuine distraction from getting their job done.
It's not as sexy to elect all of those little people, but it's getting the job done, which all of their current actions do not.
By running for president, these candidates and their parties are just as much a part of keeping the two-party system intact as Trump and Clinton are.
UPDATE: Of course the Green Party had a response to Dan Savage's comments. They were severely underwhelming in reassuring those of us who would love to see alternative parties succeed, but think they are on the wrong path. I considered writing another post, but, of course, How Green Is Her Bullshit: An Uncharacteristically Brief Response to the Green Party Spokesperson's Dishonest Response to My Podcast Rant by Dan Savage beat me to it and said it even better than I could.